The Pentagon's new math on U.S. injuries in Iraq

How to decrease the number of injured soldiers? Change the way you count them.

Published February 2, 2007 2:06PM (EST)

The Bush administration has come up with a sure-fire plan for reducing the number of U.S. soldiers injured in Iraq: Change the way that you count them.

As the New York Times reports this morning, a Pentagon Web site tally of U.S. "non-mortal casualties" in Iraq stood at 47,657 on Monday. The very next day, the same Web site contained no listing for "non-mortal casualties," but it did list 31,493 incidents as "total -- medical air transported."

The Pentagon's explanation? The old method of counting included what the Times calls "illnesses, minor injuries and injuries from accidents" and therefore might have confused people into thinking that U.S. soldiers have suffered more combat injuries than they actually have.

It's not an unreasonable argument, even if it comes from an administration that has pretty routinely monkeyed with the way statistics are reported in order to suit its political desires. But it's probably worth remembering here that the number of U.S. troops who would have been injured in Iraq if George W. Bush hadn't invaded the country -- and the number that who died there since he did. The first number would be right around zero. The second is 3,087.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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